Cervical EsophagealCancer

Overview

Cervical esophageal cancer is a tumor that grows on the esophagus, the “swallowing” tube that leads to your stomach. It can show up in the top part of your esophagus and anywhere from the bottom of the throat (hypopharynx) to the indentation in the middle of your neck between the two collarbones (the sternal notch). 

Esophageal cancer is rare. But if you smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you have a greater risk of developing it.

Symptoms

You might not notice the symptoms, but they include:

  • Burning, pressure or pain in the chest
  • Coughing when drinking liquids
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Ear pain (especially on only one side)
  • Feeling as if something is stuck in your throat
  • Extreme weight loss (from lack of eating)
  • Having swallowed food come back up
  • Hoarse voice
  • A lump on the neck

Diagnosis

Your doctor will feel your neck for lumps or bumps and look inside your ears and nose. He or she will use a small, lighted mirror and a flexible endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a light at the end) to look at your pharynx and larynx.

Your doctor may also order tests, including:

  • Barium swallow: You’ll drink a liquid that contains barium (a silver-white metallic compound). This coats the esophagus and stomach and will show up on X-rays. Then your stomach and esophagus will be X-rayed. This test is also known as an esophogram or an upper GI series. 
  • Biopsy: This is the removal of a small piece of tissue where the cancer is suspected to examine it for cancerous cells.
  • Endoscopy: A thin, lighted tube will be inserted through your mouth or nose, allowing your doctor to see organs and look for abnormal tissue.
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy: Here, a thin needle is placed into a lump in your neck. Cells are drawn out and examined under a microscope.
  • Imaging tests: Scans such as CT, MRI or PET scans and chest or dental X-rays will help confirm whether a tumor exists and whether it’s spread.

Treatment Options

Treatment for cervical esophageal cancer usually involves a combination of surgery to remove the tumor, radiation and chemotherapy. The treatment you’ll get will be personalized for you depending on your general health, how advanced the cancer is and whether it’s spread.

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